How to Fill the Holiday Break: The Culture Guide

Hunting down the best annual performances of The Nutcracker has become a bit of a holiday tradition at #goophq—one that inevitably leads to an unearthing of the other cultural events on the calendar this time of year. Most performance venues take a break between Christmas and the New Year, so this is actually a great time to be looking, as you’re just in time to catch both the end of this year’s long-running shows and the beginning of next year’s new offerings. Below, our favorite picks—a full range that includes everything from family-friendly ballets and concerts to R-rated art exhibitions.

ROLL CALL at LA Louver

LA Louver, 45 N. Venice Blvd., Venice | 310.822.4955

ROLL CALL curator Gajin Fujita met each of the thirteen participating artists through his long career as a graffiti artist—he’s known some of them for 30 years. In fact, he named the show for the graffiti crew practice of tagging every member's name on a piece that was created as a group. The show brings together some of LA's most revered artists from the '80s, including founding members of K2S and KGB, plus artists like Retna with international reputations. The show features paintings, sketches, and sculpture, all in styles any Angeleno will recognize from buildings and walls all over town. It's a deep and satisfying dive into the many identities of L.A. and the artistic styles that represent them.

Nkame and Black with a Drop of Red at the Fowler

The Fowler Museum at UCLA, 308 Charles E. Young Dr. N., Westwood | 310.825.4361

At a time when talk of Cuban culture in the US is as relevant as ever, the Fowler Museum at UCLA is presenting two exhibitions that showcase the works of Cuban artists. The first, Nkame, presents a wide range of 20th-century powerhouse Belkis Ayón’s graphic production, displaying her visual investigation of an Afro-Cuban fraternal society while extolling her rise to prominence in the realm of contemporary printmaking as a black Cuban woman. Through January 22, you’ll also be able to experience Black With a Drop of Red, the Fowler’s exhibition dedicated to contemporary Cuban poster work, which is as much a study of the country’s obsession with movies as it is of its varied political struggles. Photo: Belkis Ayón, La consagración II (The Consecration II), 1991. Collograph. Collection of the Belkis Ayón Estate.

The Hammer: In Real Life

The Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood | 310.443.7000

The Hammer's free programming is always a draw, but they've taken on their most ambitious project yet with In Real Life, a four-month curated film and video series, plus fifteen weekends of performances—with the added opportunity of being able to watch the artists’ processes in the museum’s courtyard as they rehearse over this period. On our list: The Workshop Years, which examines Black British film and video after 1981. Closes January 25th. (While it's not part of In Real Life, you can also catch the tail-end of Contenders, a MoMA-branded film series with screenings of Into the Inferno and Weiner plus Q&As with the directors, the week of 12/12).

Andy Garcia and the Cineson All Stars at the Geffen Playhouse

The Geffen Center, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood | 310.208.2028

Grammy winner Andy Garcia is at the Geffen for two nights after New Years with his thirteen-member Cuban band, whose dynamic stylings are a celebration of the legendary Afro Cuban bassist Israel “Cachao” Lopez. Cachao, of course, invented the mambo rhythm along with his brother—Garcia was Cachao’s protégé, and some members of Cachao’s original band make up The CineSon All Stars. January 7th and January 8th only.

Toba Khedoori at LACMA

LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., West Hollywood | 323.857.6010

Fans of Toba Khedoori will have seen her show at Regen Projects this spring (her first at the gallery in more than ten years), which showcased her newest paintings—works on a much smaller scale than we're used to seeing from the artist. Those paintings are on display at her LACMA survey, alongside more than 20 years-worth of her signature large-scale compositions. Closes March 19th. Photo: Toba Khedoori, Untitled (black fireplace), 2006, detail, encaustic, wax, and oil on paper, 141 × 205 in., The Broad Art Foundation, © Toba Khedoori, photo © Douglas M. Parker Studio, courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and David Zwirner, New York/London.

The King and I at the Pantages

The Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood | 800.982.2787

This musical’s latest revival (which won four Tony's) continues its national tour, stopping in LA from December 16th through January 21st. Marin Mazzie, most famous for starring roles in "Ragtime" and "Kiss Me, Kate" recently took over the role of Anna, with Daniel Dae Kim (you'll recognize him from Lost) as the King of Siam. What hasn't changed: classic sing-along songs, big costumes like Anna's flowing skirts and the children's gold and silk outfits, and fun, big group numbers.

The Eagle Huntress at Laemmle Theatres

Multiple Theatres | 310.478.1041

This long-anticipated documentary follows a 13-year-old Mongolian girl, Aisholpan, who fights to become the first female eagle hunter in her family in twelve generations. Executive produced and narrated by Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley, the visually breathtaking film is an epic statement that girls can do anything boys can. P.S. Laemmle has all kinds of other great indie films on the calendar, too—we're marking our calendars for Pablo Larraín's Spanish-language Neruda.

Seu Jorge at the Ace Hotel Theatre

The Theatre at the Ace Hotel, Downtown | 213.623.3233

Serious Wes Anderson fans will need no introduction to Seu Jorge, but for the uninitiated, remember the guy constantly playing the guitar in The Life Aquatic? Jorge was recruited by Anderson to play his acoustic, Portuguese-language covers of David Bowie songs at intervals throughout the film, and actually recorded an entire LP as part of the project. The Ace is hosting the final venue for Jorge's tribute tour, where he performs the entire album in front of a sailboat-shaped backdrop. December 16th.

The Nutcracker, American Ballet Theatre

Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa | 714.556.2787

There’s no holiday tradition quite like getting dressed up and heading out in the cold to see a performance of The Nutcracker. The American Ballet Theater’s fantastical presentation is of the traditional variety (it's choreographed by MacArthur genius Alexei Ratmansky), with all the trappings: magical toy soldiers, sly mice, and glittering snowflakes, with a cast of more than 100 performers. Two of the company’s December shows in LA will feature Misty Copeland as a principal (usually the Sugar Plum Fairy in this ballet).